Be the farmer

Be the farmer

I find farming to be a fascinating industry. There is a beauty and calmness to be seen as you drive by a field of growing crops. Underneath that calmness are highly skilled workers, complicated machines, and a focused plan and team to bring it all to life. Today, we’ll look at how our leadership can benefit from being more like a farmer. 

Successful farmers lean into diversity


As a child, I grew up down the road from a peach orchard. Every couple of years there would be news stories of the family and workers starting controlled fires in barrels around the orchard in hopes of keeping the blossoms alive when a severe cold front came through. Sometimes they were successful and some years there were virtually no crops at all. Their entire success or failure rode on one crop and its return on investment was totally out of their control. 

Many successful farmers leverage the power of diversity to better protect their income and also strengthen and increase the value of the land that they own. An example of this is crop rotation. A farmer may plant corn, and they know that the corn takes a lot of nitrogen out of the soil as it matures. Instead of using valuable resources and money to replace the nitrogen after the harvest, they may plant beans in the same spot after the corn is harvested. Beans add nitrogen naturally back to the soil and produce a second layer of income from the same plot of land. 

In the same way, a leader gets more value out of their team when they invest in diverse thoughts and experiences in others. A team composed of the same life experiences, talents, and behavioral traits as each other is like the peach orchard; susceptible to critical failure with just one misstep. A diverse team on the other hand fills in the gaps of the other person, adding value in their own unique way. 

They pull crops at the right time


The time to pull crops can be tricky. Pull too early and the crops haven’t matured/ripened enough and you lose a good bit of value. Wait too late and the crop can be ruined. We all know the speed of business is extremely fast in today’s market and everybody wants things now, including leaders with their expectations for their employees. I could share many examples where I’ve seen a leader promote a person or expand their responsibilities too early resulting in that person leaving the organization and a mess behind them. 

Remember that your people are all growing at a different pace and a timeline that worked for one may not work for another. Slow down, nurture, and support your people on their timelines to help ready them for that next evolution in their work responsibilities and careers. 

Farmers hate weeds just as much as you


No leader looks forward to the problems that happen on the team, just as a farmer hates seeing weeds pop up despite the amount of work that they put in beforehand to prevent them from sprouting. Weeds (problems) are going to happen. Just like a farmer must remove the weeds to maximize their crop, a leader must remove obstacles and problems so that a team can thrive. 

It’s important to be proactive in addressing issues that you see – communications, behavior, and performance among the top themes before they grow into larger, work-stopping issues. Think back to a time when you had to deal with a big conflict or issue involving another person. More than likely you can draw a line back to when the issue had presented itself but had not yet manifested itself into the big issue it was when you finally addressed it. Farmers also know checking on weeds, isn’t a one-time activity, they have to constantly check for new ones that pop up overnight. In the same way, it’s important to consistently check in on your team and do health checks to make sure things are running smoothly, and new problems haven’t popped up in a new spot. 

Farmers are disciplined


On the surface, farming may seem easy – throw some seeds in the ground, wait, collect the crops, and make money. In reality, farming is hard work requiring a very disciplined person who is strategic, a master of time management, and a good people leader in order to turn over a successful crop in a season. If you remove any of those three traits from a farmer the likelihood of being successful drops significantly. You’ll also serve yourself and others well by modeling the same disciplined mindset and leadership style. Previous shows that can help with strategic thinking, time management, and people leaders include:

Follow the farmers’ way of life by being a disciplined leader who is patient and caring with your team, while making sure that you have a diverse mix of talent. You’ll see your team grow and mature in a healthy way and will reap the benefits of your leadership for years to come. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Be a song

Be a song

Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a house that had hundreds of records and there was constantly music being played somewhere in the house. Songs can hold a lot of power too. Hearing a certain song can bring you back to a specific place in time, it can create an emotional response and it can help you focus and motivate you physically to get things done. 

Today we’ll look at the parallels between a great song and fantastic leadership.

Every song has a structure


Every song out there is held together by multiple layers of structure. You have the tempo, which drives the speed of the song, the time signature which dictates the feel of the song, and the key which rules which notes to play. Without those things you don’t have a song, you have noise. 

Think about times that you’ve worked on a team where there wasn’t much formal structure. More than likely there was a little, or a lot, of chaos. Certainly, there was a lack of direction and accountability, and more than likely it either slowed down the team’s ability to get to an objective or perhaps you never arrived at the conclusion that you wanted in the first place.

Here are some tips to ensure you’ve got a strong foundation for your team to make a great impact

  • Be clear on who the leader is, and what everyone’s role and responsibilities are. 
  • Lay out a clear timeline on due dates, progress updates, and meeting cadences. 
  • Communicate where to go for questions and support. 
  • Make yourself available for questions from the team. 
  • Check-in on progress and learn of pain points and hurdles. 
  • Adjust the structure as needed for the team. 

 Don’t beholden yourself to a set structure with no willingness to deviate. One of my favorite kinds of music is math rock. It’s a music style where the musicians are heavily knowledgeable about the rules and structure of music and use that knowledge to mix things up in new, exciting, and unexpected ways. Be willing to mix things up to keep them fresh and relevant while your team rocks its way to success. 

A great song connects emotionally to the listener


There are songs out there that people connect with on a very emotional level. Maybe they connect with the lyrics as it gives them comfort. Perhaps the song represents a specific memory or moment you had that was very important to you. The music itself can even stir or elicit an emotion from you by itself.  A great song connects with your soul in a special way. 

A person’s connection to their team and the work that they do is very influential in whether that person stays or goes somewhere else. In fact, it’s one of the leading reasons why a person leaves their job (SHOW XXX) 

As a leader, you find the ability to connect with others and to emotionally connect people to what they value will serve you very well. Here are some other shows and resources to help you continue that journey.

We’ve talked about the power of storytelling as you are leading and influencing others. Doing so with data is huge. It validates what you are saying. Couple that with an emotional pull and you have people drawn in and connecting to what you have to say. 

A great song is an anthem for others


My wife and I go to a lot of live shows. (Over 125 bands since 2022) No matter who we see there is always a crowd screaming the lyrics back at the singer. Hands in the air, fists pumping, jumping up and down….. the song is their anthem. It’s inspiring to them and drives them on multiple levels. They are all in!

Connecting with a person’s Values to their work is critical. how are you supporting that connection for their success and the success of your business? You’ve got to be a leader worth following – you got to be their proverbial anthem as they march to greatness in their work. Here are some self-reflection questions to help you determine how much of an anthem you are for others.

  • Would people follow you to another job or company?
  • What is your turnover compared to your peers?
  • Do you bring excitement and positive energy into a room or take it away?
  • Do people on your team feel empowered to do what needs to be done?
  • Do people emulate your style and practices?

Remember as your leadership becomes that song that everyone loves to listen to, to make sure that others have a chance to shine and be recognized as well. All the instruments knowing when to step up and when to step back and support also help a great song become even better. 

For another look at the power of music in leadership be sure to check out Show 107 Finding Leadership in Music and Show 367: Be the Record

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Teach your leaders to be empathetic

Teach your leaders to be empathetic

In an ever-changing work dynamic for your team, the skill of empathy has become an important tool in caring for your people so they feel respected, valued; and stick around longer as a result. Rarely does a command to a leader to “be more empathic,” stick in a meaningful way. 

The term is dependent on the person’s experience and definition

People’s understanding and definition of the term empathy are really all over the place and are highly dependent on their personal journeys and experiences. Some people think of empathy as simply active listening. Others may classify it as transparency and fairness, while additional leaders may consider empathy as being inclusive and supporting mental health. 

With all the confusion on what empathy is, it can cause misalignment between you and others if you define the term and expectations differently. Take time to learn and understand what empathy means to the other person and have them share some examples if possible. If there are gaps, help the person see the opportunities so that you are starting from the same place and can align on the next steps and measure growth and success. 

Help them stay other-focused


Showing empathy is a great way to build social connections, trust, and rapport with another person. It’s important for your leader to have awareness and understand that as they feel empathy for another person, they understand that the feeling that they resonate with is the other person’s and not their own. There are strong examples of this in the healthcare and medicine fields. Connecting with a family member after someone passes away, or a vet who euthanizes a family pet are times when the person likely understands and can relate to the grief and pain – “I know how you feel” but they also understand that what they are connecting with someone else’s emotions and they are not their own. 

Help your leaders protect themselves from empathic distress


When the line of other-focused becomes blurred in empathy we take on the feeling and internalize it as our own pain and epatetic distress occurs. In the veterinarian example, if they can’t distinguish between the grief of the family and their own grief in a similar situation, the vet may rush the family through the process and pull themselves back and away immediately afterward as a result. 

The result is that the vet has negatively impacted the already sensitive situation and is now a burden that both parties will carry going forward. This will also likely impact the vet’s quality of work for the rest of the day if they continue to hold onto the emotion. 

Coach your leaders to make the connection, but to be aware and protect the boundary between other-focused and internalizing and taking on the emotions of others. 

Additional Resources


Here are some additional resources from the show and site to help you continue to explore the topic of empathy:

Empathy, Sympathy, and Pity (Show 261) We break down the difference between the three words and how and when you leverage them as you engage with others. 

Roadblocks to empathy (Show 247) We cover three common barriers to hold us back from being truly empathetic with others. 

Tips to grow your empathy (Show 246) Actionable and tangible tips to grow and strengthen your empathy with others. 

Understanding empathy (Show 245) Here we discuss what empathy is, what it isn’t, and the three different types of empathy. 

Remember that empathy is about connecting with others on an emotional level and demonstrating that you care about their well-being. It’s a skill that can be developed and improved over time with practice, and it’s essential for building more meaningful and supportive relationships. When you help your leaders become more empathetic in a healthy way, everyone wins. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

How to create luck for yourself

How to create luck for yourself

I’ve always been a lucky person. At nine, I won a mountain bike from a gas station (that was too big for me) and later won a chest full of Disney merch in a separate drawing. Since then I’ve won clothes, cash, food, concert tickets, VIP experiences, and more. I’m also the lucky charm for folks. Once my in-laws learned about my streak they went down to a car dealership to enter a contest and walked away with a brand new car. Another friend also took up contests and has won countless things. 

Most people think of luck as something that happens to you. Maybe you are born with exceptional talent, or your career is fast-tracked. Perhaps you know someone who wins things like I do. It can seem like the stars just align for certain people. The truth is that you can actually manufacture luck if you know how and where to look for it. The book Chase, Chance, and Creativity: The Lucky Art of Novelty explains the four types of luck and how to utilize them to become more lucky. 

Blind Luck


Blind luck is generally what people think about when they think of the term luck. This is the one category that is purely chance. There’s not really much you can do here to influence it; it happens or it doesn’t. Think of things like getting the perfect hand in a game of cards or hitting the lottery. You are receiving whatever is thrown at you. 

Luck from Motion


Let’s take it back to grade school physics. An object at rest will remain at rest until an outside force disrupts it. An object in motion will remain in motion until an unbalanced force interacts with that object. That same type of thought is applied with luck from motion. Doing nothing, and remaining still, will never positively impact your luck. However, as you put yourself in motion you are increasing the surface for luck to occur. 

This kind of luck can be increased through physical motion – putting yourself out there at meeting conferences, and meeting more people. Think about a time when you ran into someone or met someone that you walked away feeling really excited about. It can range from a new client to a person that you have admired, a potential new partner, or someone who has the knowledge and skill that you were looking for. You were lucky to meet them because you put yourself out there in the first place. 

It doesn’t have to be just physical motion either. It also includes putting yourself out there virtually. Inc Magazine tells a story about increasing your luck through writing and sharing about your work. Your thought and ideas are in motion as well and you are more likely to run into the right person for you as you share those with the public. 

Luck from Awareness


Studies show that luck is heavily influenced by behavior and not just chance. Situational awareness plays a big part in your luck. Let’s say you go to an event, but you don’t pay attention to what’s going on around you and you head home at the end of the night having made no meaningful connections. On the other hand, let’s say that you looked at the guest list beforehand and recognized the name of someone that you wanted to meet. Then you intentionally seek them out at the event. Later, you hear someone talking about A.I. and a program that you have a good amount of interest in, so you walk over and make another great connection. In the example, it’s the same night but you walk away with vastly different experiences and value. 

I’ve shared over the last couple of years about how my wife and I have gotten into the local art scene in the Atlanta area. We’ve got a list of artists that we hope to own original pieces from. We have been extremely lucky to obtain several pieces that are visually stunning and amazing deals financially. Some costs were 75% less than what a similar piece would go for. That luck has been a combination of both Luck of Motion and Luck from Awareness. We go to gallery shows and have now established friendships with many of those artists. I know what the market price is for these pieces (awareness), so when I go to a show or event (motion) and see an unusually good deal, I will scoop it up if that artist is on my list. 

Curiosity, openness, optimism, experience, and perhaps a little courage also help influence your Luck from Awareness. When you put these together, you’ll start to see luck manifest itself around you.

 Luck from Uniqueness

Luck from Uniqueness favors those who have a standout mix of hobbies, experiences, lifestyles, and behaviors. Steve Jobs spoke several times about his advice for growing a person’s intelligence – it’s typically centered around the idea that the person break the mold of what the typical profile looked like for that person. “You have to not have the same bag of experiences as everyone else does, or else you’re gonna make the same connection and you won’t be innovative.”

By offering the public, your company, and new connections, a unique combination of skills, experiences, and interests, you’ll make yourself more likely to stand out and attract others and new opportunities. Your uniqueness makes you luckier. 

Put yourself out there, dial in your awareness of what’s going on around you, and stand out from the crowd by showcasing your uniqueness. Your luck will only increase and maybe you’ll be called the lucky one as well. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

More tips to improve your EQ

More tips to improve your EQ

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a skill set that you can always benefit from growth, and it’s one of the few areas in which you don’t experience a ceiling as far as capability. We’ve covered the foundations of leadership on shows 145-149 and you can find many resources for supporting your EQ here.  Today we’ll give you even more tips to help you continue to drive for further growth.

Run toward conflict instead of away from it


Conflict, like a sunset, is inevitable.  You can’t prevent conflict from happening in your work or personal life any more than you can prevent the sun from dipping below the horizon. As a leader of people and leader over an area of responsibility, you’ll better serve your team and the business by courageously stepping toward a conflict and addressing it early. 

It’s certainly not an instinct that everyone possesses. You’ll find leaders or co-workers who are passive-aggressive or conflict-adverse. The troubles only build up for those folks as the problem or situation further deteriorates. As you stand out from the crowd in your leadership (and EQ) skills, approach the conflict with active listening skills to understand the other person to get to a positive and agreed-upon resolution.

Be mindful of communicating outside of work hours


Email Ugency Bias is a phenomenon caused at least in part by the fact that response speed has increasingly become a proxy for dedication and hard work. It’s the feeling, whether it’s warranted or not, that you need to get back to the other person ASAP. This can also be heavily influenced by who the person is or what the role is. 

An emotionally intelligent leader realizes this and considers their communication with others outside of working hours in order to not impede on their downtime and help to encourage a healthy work/life balance. Include expectations with those who have a tendency to get back to you no matter the hour or struggle with prioritization. 

“Please don’t feel the need to respond today. We can talk about it on (X Date).”

“I know you have a busy morning tomorrow, so if you can get back to me by the end of the day that would be great.”

“We’re presenting next Friday, so let me know this week what you think.”

Even if you do this, there are going to be some folks who are just wired to ignore your date and next it back to you as soon as possible. The implication is that it doesn’t matter what you say, if you send messages during off hours, you’ll be denying those people a chance to connect. Leverage scheduling your emails or have them in your drafts to send after it’s time to get back to working hours again.

Show a willingness to share what you are feeling

Some leaders are just not comfortable expressing their emotions to those that they work with. While this doesn’t give the person a free pass to be unprofessional and succumb to outbursts and fits of rage, it does mean that you show up as your honest and true self. In your environment, this may mean sharing both the good news and the bad. It also means celebrating the wins while acknowledging the tough days and losses. 

Our fears, insecurity, internal visual of what a leader looks like, and uncertainty in direction can all put up barriers As a result, we put on a facade that hides who we truly are. Help strengthen your emotional intelligence by taking small steps here to open yourself up to others. 

You can find a deeper dive into this topic at How Transparency Helps Your Team and Career (Show 305)

Stay mindful of your pace


As leaders, we are often action-oriented. Do the thing and do it now! I’m often the same way. I’d rather knock something out than need to go back later and follow up on additional items. While that action-orientated stance can be very beneficial in eliminating additional meetings as well as freeing up time for your future self, it often serves you well to pause and not immediately respond to external stimuli. 

Those that pause before responding to those external stimuli, think email, messages, complaints, or even good things like opportunities, will often come out with the upper hand. Emotionally intelligent leaders appreciate that slower reaction times give them space to be more strategic in their thoughts and protect them from emotional knee-jerk reactions. 

Continue to hone your emotional intelligence skills to bring better balance into your work/life rhythm, and a healthier environment for yourself and those that you serve. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

What leader shadow are you casting?

What leader shadow are you casting?

Good leadership cascades out and impacts the team long after a leader leaves the room. Like a shadow, it follows a person and can be even larger than the person themselves. As you can imagine, that shadow can have both a positive impact and a negative one. 

During the pandemic, the CEO of REI,  Eric Artz, announced that he was suspending his pay and refusing any additional incentives as stores closed across the nation. The board also took pay cuts as well. Those funds were diverted to help keep paychecks going for people in the field during uncertain times. 

Absenteeism (Show 173) Micromanaging (Show 314) or leading like a seagull (Show 260) can all lead to a negative shadow that demotivates others, fosters a culture that is counter to what is productive, and does additional damage long after you are gone. 

What kind of shadow are you casting? Today we’ll look at four areas to reflect on as you think about what type of shadow you cast on your work and on others. 

What am I saying?


Your people more than likely want to do right by you and your organization. As a result, they are highly influenced by what you say and communicate to them.  For example, if you say things like “I know the policy says this, but we actually do this” or “I know what my leader said, but this is what we are going to do,” the shadow you are casting is telling your people not to trust or take policies too seriously and not to trust what other leaders are saying. 

How are you communicating priorities? Are they one-off conversations or are they ingrained in the regular expectations? An easy example here is diversity. Is there a discussion once or twice a year or is it a part of the regular conversation?

Self-reflection tips for your communication

  • Does my communication align with the larger direction and vision?
  • Is my communication inclusive of others?
  • Is my humor appropriate?
  • Does my communication instill trust and confidence?
  • Is my communication clear?

How do I act?


Actions truly do speak louder than words. A popular saying goes, “People won’t remember what you say, but how you made them feel.” Yes, your actions are the ones that people tend to remember the most, but inactions can communicate just as loudly. 

Self-reflection tips for your actions

Fulfill your commitments and show that you care for the team’s well-being in order to help strengthen and lengthen your leadership shadow. 

What do I prioritize?


This is a category that is highly emulated by those that you lead and includes both business goals and well-being efforts. When I worked in a senior-level operations role, I discovered that no one could recite our Values or knew the mission statement. How could we ground our work if there was no foundation? I made it a priority and had everyone recite them together during the daily team huddles. In a few short months, hundreds of people across a large geographical area were doing the same thing. Having that foundation, made other conversations around accountability, expectations, and care easier because they aligned with the Values that everyone knew. 

What you prioritize, will be the same things that your team will prioritize as well. Much in the same way as your actions, your team will not likely highly prioritize things that you don’t yourself. 

Self-reflection tips for prioritization

  • How supportive are you in prioritizing other’s well-being?
  • Do your priorities align with the larger business goals?
  • Are you making the priorities a part of your everyday conversations?
  • What items or topics do you engage directly with your team about?

What am I measuring?


Lieutenant General David Morrison AO, Chief of the U.S. Army said, “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. I knew I had to be clear and direct about what was unacceptable behavior in the Army and that there would be tough consequences for anyone found to be in breach”.  If you as a leader don’t embrace accountability, then your words can mean next to nothing to your team. Accountability is the culmination of your words, actions, and priorities and determines how strong your shadow is. 

Self-reflection tips for accountability

Your Leadership Legacy is what you leave for generations to come. Your leadership shadow can be a huge influence today. Focus on these four areas and watch your influence grow beyond your expectations. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH